Environment and Economy of Kuwait

Environment and Economy of Kuwait

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Environment and Economy of Kuwait

Kuwait is not self-sufficient in agriculture but the country will be
in the future. Its production of cereals, vegetables and fruit grown in the
oasis of Jahra and scattered smallholdings is not sufficient for the
population's needs, due to limitations of water supply, fertile soil,
climate and manpower. Much of its food needs to be imported but government
investment and the work of the Kuwait Experimental farm have led to
improvements whereby existing resources are more efficiently utilized.

Kuwait is a small arid desert land of about 6200 square miles. There
is virtually no natural source of fresh water. Climatic conditions entail
occasional high winds and dust storms, little or no rainfall, and summer
temperatures as high as 120øF. "Consequently, arable land amounts to less
than 9% of total acreage."1 Soil deficiencies and the intense heat and
sunlight allow continued cultivation only by expensive underground pipe-fed
irrigation or by hydroponics. Ordinary irrigation under these conditions
results in gradually increasing soil salinity. this phenomenon has been the
cause of the estimated 1% annual decrease in arable land for the region as
a whole. Hence, development of traditional agriculture is severely

Kuwaitis are under no illusion that self-sufficiency will take less
than 20 to 30 years to attain and even then it cannot include such items as
beef and cereals. For Kuwait cereal production is considered too expensive
and unnecessary. Self-sufficiency in poultry, vegetables and fruit is a
visible goal: already Kuwait produces 60% of the eggs it needs, 40% of the
poultry meat and 100% of the tomatoes. The next emphasis is likely to be on
dairy farming and animal husbandry to increase the 25% of the required milk
supplies that is produced in the country. The Kuwaitis are very conscious
of the fact that urban growth and the hunting of animals which used to live
in the desert has meant the virtual extinction of wildlife. Kuwait is
importing from many countries animals such as cows, chickens and sheep.

In view of Kuwait's extremely unpromising natural environment which
was made even worse after the Persian Gulf War, the key to all its hopes
for self-sufficiency lies in research and experiments. Their experimental
farm research farm:Omariya, the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research
and the Kuwait Fund for the Advancement of Sciences are engaged in a
variety of projects concerned with the hybridization of plants, animal
breeding, the increase of yields in desert conditions, the treatment of
brackish water and effluent water, irrigation methods, etc.

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"For example,
the use of plastic mulching films as a cover for the soil is already widely
known as a method of preventing evaporation, reducing soil erosion and
retarding weed growth."2

Kuwait only has 100 acres or so under cultivation in the whole country.
This makes Kuwait one of the least agriculturalized countries in the world.
The dependence on imports of foodstuffs is almost complete. This state of
affairs has had economic as well as sociological effects on the population
since the oil exports pay for the food imports. The urbanistic character of
the indigenous population has been reinforced by the lack of farming
opportunities. Kuwait is trying to change this in order to diversify and
balance its economy which at present is highly dependent on finite amounts
of petroleum. "Agriculture (including fishing) accounts for but a small
portion of Kuwait's gross domestic product (0.24%). This economic sector
utilized only 3% of those privately employed."3

Government studies have shown the feasibility of commercial scale
production of fruits and vegetables using hydroponic methods. However,
little progress has actually been made in terms of expanding the income
base of the country. The reasons for lack of progress are
obvious:deficiencies of soil, lack of irrigation water, the harsh climate,
and the limited supply of agriculturally trained manpower. There is a heavy
dependence on expatriate labour since Kuwaitis possess an almost
"agriculture-less" mentality, aside from fishing.

If agriculture is an industry of the future, fishing, together with
pearling have been a major occupation in Kuwait since the foundation of the
state. Today with the increase in population and rise in living standards
"the local industry provides about 99% of consumption, which is over 5000
tons a year."4 The harvesting and eating of shrimp has progressed most
rapidly-doubling in 2 years during the early 1980s. The individual
fishermen who still supply two-thirds of the local market, use much of the
traditional equipment. Gradually they are acquiring more modern equipment
which will allow them to be more efficient. There is also a United
Fisheries Company which was setup by government to reduce overfishing which
a constant problem.

Kuwait will be self-sufficient in agriculture in the future. It will
be able to grow more of its own food through new techniques and it will
continually be able to buy food should the country ever find itself in that
situation. Many of the new techniques proposed are feasible and there is no
lack of monetary resources to spend on this problem. They already have
succeeded in reducing their dependence on imports of vegetables, fruits and
poultry. The government will spend the money also because it wants to
diversify its economy instead of being mainly based on the country's
petroleum resources.


El Mallakh, Ragaei Kuwait, Trade and Investment. Boulder,
Westview Press Inc., 1989 El Mallakh, Ragaei Economic Development and
Regional Cooperation. Chicago, University of Chicago, 1988

Mansfield, Peter Kuwait:Vanguard of the Gulf. London, Hutchinson Publishing Co., 1990 The
State of Kuwait:The Ministry of Information Kuwait:Facts and Figures 1988.

Kuwait City, The State of Kuwait, 1988

Winstone, H.V.F. Kuwait:Prospect and
Reality. London, McGraw-Hill Inc., 1990
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